Malaysia's general elections amidst the shadow of re-mahathirisation

Ahmad Fauzi Abdul Hamid, Muhamad Takiyuddin Ismail

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

4 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

This article discusses the phenomenon of re-Mahathirisation which engulfed the politics of Malaysia's ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition and its main component party, the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO). Re-Mahathirisation refers to the increase in attachment towards the legacy of Malaysia's fourth Prime Minister, Dr. Mahathir Mohamad (1981–2003). Transpiring not long after Mahathir's relinquishment of official power, the process was seen as approaching a peak with BN-UMNO's campaign for the 13th General Elections (GE13) of May 2013. It was orchestrated especially by conservative elements in UMNO disillusioned with the political liberalisation began by his successor Abdullah Ahmad Badawi (2003–2009) and continued by Najib Razak. In line with an understanding of conservatism as characterised by resistance against radical change and by admiration of past values, re-Mahathirisation was employed by the BN-UMNO regime during the GE13 hustings to court the large pool of conservative-minded Malay voters. The successful dislodging of Abdullah Badawi from the party-cum-national leadership in 2009 signified a powerful return of Mahathirism to the foreground of UMNO and national politics. Although Najib Razak has pursued Abdullah's political liberalisation initiatives, he felt compelled to tolerate a rising public presence of Mahathir. Re-Mahathirisation has not proceeded without salient implications for UMNO. In the short term, UMNO as a dominant conservative party has strongly rebuilt its legitimacy as the vanguard of the Malay-Islamic agenda ever circumspect of attempts to reform existing multi-racial power sharing arrangements. However, Mahathir's aligning with right wing Malay conservative groups has countered the gains that could be reaped from Najib Razak's dogged advocacy of political reform. As a consequence, BN managed to retain power by virtue only of the heavy electoral weightage given to rural areas. To non-Malays and middle class Malays, UMNO's intransigence to change arguably owes much to its association with Mahathir's recent divisive approach, fear-mongering and unbridled use of conservative rhetoric.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-24
Number of pages24
JournalKajian Malaysia
Volume32
Publication statusPublished - 2014

Fingerprint

Malaysia
election
liberalization
conservative party
national politics
political reform
conservatism
minister
middle class
coalition
rhetoric
legitimacy
rural area
campaign
regime
leadership
anxiety
reform
politics
General Elections

Keywords

  • Abdullah Badawi
  • Conservatism
  • General election
  • Mahathir Mohamad
  • Najib Razak

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • History
  • Sociology and Political Science

Cite this

Malaysia's general elections amidst the shadow of re-mahathirisation. / Hamid, Ahmad Fauzi Abdul; Ismail, Muhamad Takiyuddin.

In: Kajian Malaysia, Vol. 32, 2014, p. 1-24.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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